Dax (Robbie Kay) has had tragedy in his life, for one night on Halloween he was watching an old Bela Lugosi movie on the television - his mother loved the old horrors - when she advised him he was stronger than anything he might be afraid of. That was put to the test when a masked maniac appeared in their house, murdering Mom and getting shot dead by Dad (Tate Donovan), an event that traumatised Dax at the time, but he has coped with it through his love of horror movies, though his favourites are the slashers of the nineteen-seventies and eighties. With that in mind, he is treasuring his ticket for Blood Fest, a huge horror convention on soon - but Dad is not pleased.
A style of horror that could be obnoxiously pandering when misused was the "endorsement" horror, where the genre flattered its fans by presenting itself as enjoyed by the savvier and intelligent movie buff thanks to its subversive qualities. This would go fine if the film telling you so was savvy and intelligent, but if they were simply sucking up to the viewer without much of substance to back up its claims, specifically with reference to itself, then you would not be particularly convinced by its pleas to be loved by the aficionados. There are legions of horror fans, have been for decades, who guarantee almost anything under the description will break even, but they are not always kind.
With Blood Fest, it talked a good talk, reasoning that if its lead character had not had chillers and shockers in his life, he wouldn't be half as functional as he was now, but there was more to it as he discovers when he wangles his way into the convention after his father cuts up his admittance wristband. Accompanied by co-workers Sam (Seychelle Gabriel) who he has some feelings for if he was able to admit them, and Krill (Jacob Batalon from the Spider-Man reboots) who is the comic relief fat virgin (always handy to have around), they tag along with B-movie starlet Ashley (amusing Barbara Dunkelman, a fixture of Rooster Teeth's productions, of which this was one). But there's a big twist!
When the promoter and designer of Blood Fest, the event in the film, announces to the fans from the stage that horror movies aren't scary (or subversive) anymore now just about everyone seems to watch them (and many are rated PG-13!), nobody expects what happens next. He takes two ladies from the crowd and has his would-be newly-minted slasher villain murder them; everyone thinks it's part of the show, and it is, only the show is intended to murder as many of the attendees as possible with a rich array of cliched characters. Therefore a group of impressionable mental patients are made into zombies, or Eastern European immigrants are trained through desperation to be vampires, that sort of thing, and a hulking maniac has his mania put to use by making him into a franchise antagonist where the actual actor who plays him in the movies is also present.
Chris Doubek played the actor, who refuses to speak his catchphrase since he vainly holds onto the hope he is a serious thespian (one of a number of fictional horror movie stars under the same delusion), but throughout director-writer-star Owen Egerton (he played the insane master of ceremonies) toyed with the expectations to frequently highly entertaining effect. This was so high concept it literally staged its grand finale in a hundreds of feet high tower in the middle of the park, as if you were in any doubt, but that was part of the fun, acknowledging they were ridiculous yet a cathartic release for anyone whose life has gotten them down (and whose hasn't at some point?) when you could just relax with a horror flick and forget your troubles for an hour and a half, maybe two. There was sufficient invention here to justify its clever-clever technique, and a lot of that was down to some real laughs, obviously approached with love for horror and a willingness to do it justice. No masterpiece, but far better than it had any right to be.